Shannon Residents Appeal Superior Court Decision

Marie-Paule Spieser to appeal from Justice Godbout's decision On July 20, 2012, class representative Marie-Paule Spieser decided to appeal Justice Godbout's decision1 before the Québec Court of Appeal. That decision, dated June 21, 2012, dismissed in large part the claim concerning the liability of the Attorney General of Canada, General Dynamics Ordinance and Tactical Systems-Canada Inc. (GD-OTS Canada Inc.) and Valcartier Real Estate Corporation Inc., for having contaminated, or for having known of the contamination of, Shannon's groundwater table with trichloroethylene ("TCE").

Justice Godbout dismissed most of Ms. Spieser's claims, including her claims for compensatory damages and for punitive or exemplary damages. Describing the fault committed by the defendants as [translation:] "mild neighbourhood annoyances", Justice Godbout granted $12,000 for contamination of Shannon's water to class members living in the "red triangle" area, an area smaller than the total area alleged by the class representative. The amount was awarded as compensation for the loss of use their private wells for the period of December 2000 to December 2001.2

Ten grounds of appeal invoked to justify overturning the Superior Court judgment The inscription in appeal sets forth ten grounds of appeal to justify overturning the judgment of first instance.

Strict liability acknowledged but not applied According to the class representative, Justice Godbout erred in law by failing to analyze and rule on the constituent elements of fault pursuant to the regimes for extracontractual liability of articles 1457, 1465 and 1467 of the Québec Civil Code. Her allegation is that despite the judge's analysis of the theory of strict liability, he failed to rule on the alleged faults of the respondents. According to the representative's legal analysis, the acknowledged fault should have resulted in compensation for the direct and immediate harm caused by such fault, not only for "excessive and abnormal" harm. In her view, the evidence is unequivocal to the effect that the defendants committed a fault by using and disposing of the contaminant and by failing to warn the municipality and its residents that the groundwater table was contaminated. According to the representative, the judge's error in law was compounded by his failure to consider and take a position as to the applicability of the regimes of liability for damage caused by things in one's care. The judge should have held that...

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